February 28, 1825 - April 9, 1889
born in Lyons, France, composed during the Romantic period
Jean-Baptiste Arban is best known as a virtuoso cornet player who both championed his instrument and became an influential teacher in the proper methods of its performance technique. In addition, besides having the ability to play other brass instruments with much the same virtuosic skill, including the cornopean -- a sort of early version of the cornet -- he became a conductor of minor renown.
Born in Lyons, France, on February 25, 1825, Arban exhibited both musical talent and a curiosity for military band music at an early age. The first instrument he studied seriously was the cornopean, but he eventually focused his attention on the trumpet when he enrolled at the Paris Conservatory. There he studied the instrument with Francois Dauverné from 1841-1845.
Over the next few years Arban began performing regularly on the cornet in hopes of making it as popular in the solo realm as the flute or violin. In 1848 he performed a transcription of The Air for Flute by Boehm before members of the influential musical organization Societé des Concerts du Conservatoire, aiming to advance the cause of his instrument. His virtuosic playing was highly praised by the group, and Arban claimed, probably rightly, his performance was a giant stride forward in the popularizing of his instrument.
In 1856 Arban launched a second career as a conductor, first of salon ensembles, then of larger and more important orchestras, including that of the Paris Opera. In the 1870s he took a French orchestra on several successful tours of Russia, making appearances in St. Petersburg and Pavlovsk. Arban was appointed professor of saxhorn, another relative of the cornet, at the Ecole Militaire in 1857. In 1864 his pedagogical work Grande méthode complète pour cornet à pistons et de saxhorn was published in Paris. It not only became recognized as the definitive instructional volume on cornet playing of the nineteenth century, but has not ceded its preeminence in the field to any succeeding work.
In 1869 Arban began teaching cornet at the Paris Conservatory. Because of his conducting activity in the early and mid-1870s, though, he resigned his post at the Conservatory in 1874. He returned there, however, in 1880, spending the remainder of his career teaching and working with brass instrument manufacturers to improve the tone and quality of their instruments. Arban died in Paris on April 9, 1889. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi